July 24, 2009

Voting and lemoterians

Still on a little bit of a break from regular posting in this space. That close reading stuff I mentioned, it's not ended yet.

Meanwhile, how much truth do you see here? Thoughts welcome.

Part of what's in there reminded me of a recent exercise in voting that I watched. One candidate confessed to finding a way to submit "many" fake votes for himself, and then said this (I quote): "the organizers should find a way to stop / cut short people like me next time."

Another participant said (I quote again): "We’re not sure if this was wrong or not but we had asked all our friends to vote for us everyday from all their mail ids."


And of course, you've always wanted to read about Lemoterians and tennis courts.


The Tobacconist said...

Why do generalizations about Hindus translate to generalizations about Indians?

And "they believe in rebirth" and are therefore pessimistic argument is lame beyond belief. Tomorrow he might argue we make ideal suicide bombers for the same reason.

The argument about American Billionaires vs. Indian Billionaires only goes to show (although in a weak sense) that the Indian Billionaires are less generous than their American counterparts. How does it generalize to regular people? And since when are the Ambani's representative of Indians?

The whole article is lame and I am too sleepy to bash it more. :)

Suresh said...

To the extent I know, there is much less participation - at least, visible participation - by UK billionaires in philanthropy as opposed to US billionaires though both countries share a common Anglo-Saxon heritage. This has been so even in the past: most of us familiar with the US can easily name institutions set up by US billionaires like Carnegie-Mellon University. Can one name many British institutions set up by UK millionaires/billionaires? So what's going on there?

I would agree with The Tobacconist. It is tempting to attribute all that is "wrong" with us to our "culture." This is not exactly new either. But inferences in social sciences are always tricky -- primarily because the great tool of natural sciences, controlled experiments is not available -- and what appears superficially to be due to "culture" may often have different explanations upon closer examination.

I can give an example. In one of Kancha Ilaiah's polemical pieces, I remember, he attributed our failure to develop science and technology in a manner similar to Western Europeans to our caste system. But our "failure" is shared by the Chinese, the Arabs and indeed, all of the non-European world, none of which had the caste system. You cannot attribute everything "bad" to the caste system: that is lazy thinking.

I am not arguing that "culture" has no role to play at all in our social ills. In 1990, the late Myron Weiner wrote a powerful and heart-felt book "The Child and the State in India" addressing our failure to get rid of child labour, something which plagues us even now, to our shame. After taking up and rejecting various hypotheses (including the obvious ones like poverty) for the prevalence of child labour in India, he finally went on to argue that it was our "culture" - notably, our hierarchical caste system - that was primarily responsible. To the best of my knowledge, his explanation has not been rebutted to this date. And we still are nowhere close to eliminating child labour.

MalcontX said...

One ought to also add - just how exactly did the likes of Bill Gates get rich? All of a sudden do we forget that he runs a monopoly business? Seriously, that article is useful only as e-toilet paper.

Suresh said...

One more thing: As a Tamilian, I'd like Mr. Aakar Patel to go through the inscriptions on the walls, pillars and floors of the many old temples in Tamil Nadu. If he does so, he may see that many of these inscriptions are records of the donations made by the devotees to the temples. These devotees are not just the rulers but common people too.

The Hindu continues to publish articles relating to the discovery of new inscriptions once in a while. Here's one relating to the discovery of Chola period inscriptions dated September 25, 2008:


From the article:

According to R. Kalaikkovan, Director, Dr. M. Rajamanikkanar Centre for Historical Research, the two fragmentary later Chola period inscriptions, engraved on the basement of the maha mandapa of the temple, records the gift of a piece of land (referred to as Thirunamathu Kaani) to the principal deity of the temple. The produce from the land was to be used for the regular worship at the temple and for giving the deity the sacred bath.

Two other 19th century inscriptions were also found at the temple. One of them, engraved on the southern wall of the Chandesvara shrine in the northern part of the temple, identifies the builder of the shrine as Madhyappa Gnaniyar. The other, engraved on the front pillars of a small mandapa in front of the southern niche of the main vimana that houses the deity Dakshinamurthy, notes that the mandapa was built with the help of two philanthropists, Karuthanagaperumal and Iruvan.

Perhaps one can take issue with the object of philanthorpy, but to argue that philanthropy as such has been totally absent in "Hindu" India doesn't seem to be true at all.

Idle thinking is about all that can be said.

Anonymous said...

technical question:

If you say

A said, "I am A"

You don't have to write (and I quote) right? for you are in fact quoting.

Don't mean to be a whiny b!@# and point out meaningless things but I am in fact a whiny b!@# who points out meaningless things. So let me know.

Really, let me know if its redundant. Because I recently laughed at a person and pointed fingers at him for doing that.

And as for all "Is it proper to..?" questions its simply a racist question which can be translated to "Does Gora saheb do it that way?"

- A Whiny b!@#

Dilip D'Souza said...

I'm as suspicious of generalizations as you others here, no argument there.

Still, I'd like some insight into the attitude implicit in the two quotes I offered.

* "To get ahead, I know I'm doing something wrong, so someone should stop me. Until then, I'll keep doing it."

* "I really know this thing I want to do is wrong, but the rules don't explicitly rule it out, so I'll pretend I don't know if it is wrong or not, give myself the benefit of the doubt and do it because it will help me get ahead."

What defines "wrong" for these folks is clear in what they themselves say.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Suresh, you said: You cannot attribute everything "bad" to the caste system: that is lazy thinking.

True. And Jared Diamond's "Guns Germs and Steel" is really an attempt to debunk lazy thinking from the other direction: the kind that says, "the West developed science and technology -- whereas the Orient didn't -- because people in the West are genetically superior". A thoughtful book.

Jai_C said...

1. How would that philanthropic donation to a temple have benefited the needy people in that area? Its easier to frame that into a "bribing God for punya" thingy.

2. Some US home loan defaulters did get into that "how could we have been given this much money when we didnt have the capacity to repay?" attitude putting it all on the banks and lenders; nothing to do with themselves, no way. Maybe they were Indians in their previous birth cycle :-)


Aditya said...

that Indians jump traffic signals because of their religion? That they are opportunistic and a Hobbesian society, can be traced way back to the basic philosophies of Hinduism?

Then what about people of other faith on the road? Do Christians and Muslims don't jump traffic signals? or don't act the way their hindu counterparts do when they board a plane? I don't believe this.

I'll tell you this and this happens to me every other day - when I am the first person to stop my two-wheeler at a traffic signal at 11 PM, I see all the people stopping behind me. They wait for the signal to turn green, with me. But then at the 20th second, some teenage kid jumps the signal on his Yamaha and half of the people behind me try doing the same. Some stay and wait, most leave. Where does religion come in here?

I think these people who jump signals just because someone else does it, don't have their own minds. They want someone else to do their thinking for them. They want someone else to justify the crime for them. Ditto with queues on the post office counter.

BlogSutra said...

"To get ahead, I know I'm doing something wrong, so someone should stop me. Until then, I'll keep doing it."

I don't see what's wrong with this comment - the point the commentor is making is that there is no enforcement. Let us go back to red-light jumping. If you're the only one waiting at a red light and the others are going through, they are doing it because they can. Why isn't there any enforcement. From an early age, in our country, you are told that the rules don't have to be followed. There is an excpetion for everyone, a twist for everyone.

This is cultural. But not Hinduism-specific. The idea of submitting to a written word / abstract ideal is an anglo-saxon concept. In Asia, the written law may be one thing, but the reality is more fluid. The concept of following a rule, exactly as it is specified is an Anglo-Saxon concept. Hence the trouble with contract enforcement. Indians don't view contracts the way westerner do. But neither do the Chinese. Nor the Indonesians.

Extending this further, Modern India is the imposition of an Anglo-Saxon concept / structure on an ancient Asian culture. Hence, they know what they are doing is 'wrong' according to something written somewhere, but socially, it is acceptable.

D'Souza here always feels there is a White Man watching over his shoulder judging India all the time, therefore D'Souza feels the need to bring this topic up.

The solution to queue-jumping e.t.c. is simple - don't let anyone jump the queue.

But put a starving beggar in front of D'Souza, and all of a sudden it's time to make exceptions.

In India, everyone has a reason for an exception: the Brahmin, the low-caste, the Christian, the Muslim, the Sikh, the Bania, the Gujjar, the Marathi, you name it. So everyone feels he has a right to jump the queue. And you have the result as witnessed.

Aditya said...

From an early age, in our country, you are told that the rules don't have to be followed.

That is not true. If that were true, we'd not have queues at all. Everyone would be everywhere. Some follow rules. In fact, I say most people follow rules.

"I don't see what's wrong with this comment - the point the commentor is making is that there is no enforcement."

You could apply this to many things. You could go on a rampage. You could rob banks. You'd keep waiting for some enforcement. Also, what is the guarantee that you'd stop after the enforcement? You could also start doing the same once you are set free. If it is only the fear of law/enforcement authority that keeps you away from committing horrendous crimes then God help us.

Anonymous said...

The article did'nt ring true for me. Perhaps I feel my generation is more removed from "hindu culture" than our elders are. However I do think that even for my generation the opportunism is due to
a) behavioral influence from our elders and a lack of proper precedent being set by them.
b)competing with a large populace for limited resources.
There may be some truth to the fact that caste system in Hinduism does cause for people to look down on each other, some lack of self-respect for oneself, almost total lack of respect for the neighbor and his space.
An acceptance of this problem in our culture and upbringing should be the first step towards eliminating this trait from self


BlogSutra said...

what people follow is what they see the rest of society doing - therefore, many 'rules' are followed.

Second -

You could apply this to many things. You could go on a rampage. You could rob banks. You'd keep waiting for some enforcement. Also, what is the guarantee that you'd stop after the enforcement? You could also start doing the same once you are set free. If it is only the fear of law/enforcement authority that keeps you away from committing horrendous crimes then God help us.

It is very much the fear of authority which keeps me from doing certain things, and the rest come from education. In India, there lies the mis-alignment - your education is telling you one thing, but the reality is something else.

In America, if you speed, you WILL be caught. You see policemen on highways all the time. You see them stopping people all the time. They don't go on 'traffic drives' to boost revenues. They are enforcing the law, all the time, 24/7.

In melbourne, Australia, there are video cameras on almost all traffic lights in the downtown area. If you cut a light, the camera flashes, and you know you will get a fine.

But in India, 99 people will go scot free while cutting a red light, and being caught is the exception. T

Knowing that the authority is out there enforcing the law is a very real and genuine deterrent and it is sad that you live in some foolish ideal world where everybody is expected to abide by the rules beacue they 'know better'. Or something. In India, you know that there will 101 cases where that authority will be subverted. If you believe that people in America don't drink before they drive because they have civic sense, you are sadly mistaken. They don't drink before they drive, because 1) being caught = a criminal record and 2) the likelihood of getting caught is greater than 50%. Because there is a visible police presence on the streets.

In India, there is nobody to enforce the rules anywhere. Furthermore, there is a reward for cutting the line. You WILL get served first. In America, if I cut the line, the server would NOT serve me. That is not the case in India.

In America, there will be a security guard or somebody with some authority, to make sure people stand in line, even now, 250 years after being founded, and generally 95% literacy.

To think that everything just rests on your own 'civic sense' is just asking for trouble, and is the precisely the sort of idealistic nonsense which has led India to become the civic-sense lacking place that it is.

BlogSutra said...

I am tired of calling myself Azous and so on and so forth. Like I got tired of calling myself TTG, Phoenix and Tarun Pal. I went to study in melbourne, Australia.

I now will call myself Blogsutra and link to a blog site thats' not mine. (I am also tired of linking to porn sites). (I am tired of porn). (No I am not).

The Real Azous D'Pilid said...

Haha, this just gets better and better. Now even other commentors are being accused of being me. So now I am somebody called Tarun Pal, TTG, Phoenix, BlogSutra, and God knows who else. Well done D'Souza, you've made a joke of your own blog. And this without any effort from me. Lovely! It seems any poster not toeing the Party Line must be the dreaded Azous.

Hey Tobacconist & Suresh - are you me as well? Just checking...

Suresh said...

Yes, I am also The Real Azous

The Tobacconist said...

Yes, I am you too. Or maybe not.

Ot said...

Fcuk Off...